Satan Tried to Tempt Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4)

Originally posted on Salvoes in Faith:


Buridan’s ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will (Wikipedia).

It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass that is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is closer, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other.[1] The paradox is named after the 14th century FrenchphilosopherJean Buridan, whose philosophy of moral determinism it satirizes. A common variant of the paradox substitutes two identical piles of hay for the hay and water; the ass, unable to choose between the two, dies of hunger.

Everything from soup to nuts on how to present a sermon with suggestions for illustrations included.

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He’s Merciful and Fearful

Take a look at Psalm 67. Only seven verses.

67 God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.

That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

It starts with mercy. It speaks of true justice. It ends with fear.

We want to be shown mercy and forgiveness…and yet we don’t. If we are forgiven, we suspect that something better will be expected of us, and we don’t know if we can pull it off. It is here God, a  faultless, all-knowing judge who calls the shot. We know that He is pure, and alone worthy to judge.

But He is also equitable. Never forget that.

In Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, there is a business venturer who backs by guarantee the trading voyage by ship of a young friend. The money has been borrowed from an unscrupulous lender whose written contract provides that in the event of default the guarantor owes a pound of his own flesh. The lender is a misunderstood and despised Jewish man. The guarantor is a well respected Italian merchant. One suspects that the bloody flesh-pound term in the contract amounts to little more than jealousy.

The ship sinks. The case comes to law before the governing Duke. Will law or equity/mercy win the day?

And now we come back to our idea about an equitable God. He does find a way to forgive. He does find a way to make it legal. The blood of His own crucified Son pays the sin-price. And we are so thankful. And we are set free. And our songs of praise and thanksgiving bring fruitfulness and peace to the places where we live. And we dread the thought of disappointing Him ever again.

And what is our guarantee? Hebrews 8: 7-12.

Under Disguise


Under this-sky’s cover

We are beneath

And You are above

Under this-sky’s cover

Without comprehension dare to speak of love

Under this-sky’s cover

Clouds obscure the sun

Under this-sky’s cover

Our eyes are filled while our hearts remain numb

Under this-sky’s cover

Speak of our good works with reward in hand

Under this sky’s cover

silent and struck with awe

glimpses in spirit

treasures above and beyond

being stored

over ruled…

the objections of an interloper

“under disguise”






Shaded Visitor

Folks are troubled

By my presence

Never welcome

No, not I

The assignment

Souls to harvest

And to transport

Up on High

I will gather

At the last breath

Leaving pain

And wounds behind

Almost weightless

As I bear them

Oh the suffering

That I find!

But to some

The change is easy

They have seen

Of what comes next

And they almost

Hear my coming

Neither panicking

Nor vexed

And they know

Their earthen treasure

Now is headed

For the Blue

And with them

My grim deliveries

So much easier to do.

But they prove

The bright exception

Others writhe and wail

In pain

Never guessing

I was blameless

When the bombs

Began to rain.

When the jealousy

And avarice

Used the whip

And whistle-blow.

It is men themselves


But they never

Seem to know.

Note: This poem was inspired by the arresting book entitled The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005). Death is the narrator and war-torn Nazi Germany is the environment and the point of view is a pre-teen girl coming to know the power, threat and comfort of words on a page.

Not a Time for Lessons


Search the scriptures; for in them you think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5: 39, 40)

They do it all over the continent every Sunday morning. Open their Bibles or  gaze upon the overhead screen. Try to glean the import of magic words. These are the words of God and they contain pathways to victory, purpose and satisfaction. Let us look at the original languages. Let us compare parallel passages. Let us look for the promise here and the fulfillment over yonder.  Isn’t it all wonderfully convincing and cohesive? Didn’t Pastor put an interesting spin on his life illustrations?

But where is Jesus in all of this learning? Where is the sense of His loyalty, compassion and coaching? Are we simply receiving knowledge when that which our Lord yearns to impart is life itself. His Life. His Authority. His Understanding. His closeness to the Heavenly Father.

It can all be missed, although the supposed worshipper has memorized a boatload of Bible verses, and sounds ever so sanctified.

Better for the entire gathering to quiet themselves and meditate upon a single vignette from the Gospel tales of Jesus’ kindness and care. Sing a song in worship of that Great Heart. Utter a corporate prayer crying out for His visitation and input. Repent of the scores of shortcomings cluttering the record of the past week. In short it is time to get real and to live in Him. We must not opt out for a comfortable grasp of “Christian living” when the target is intended to be Christ Himself.


Leave behind all the gadgets and intellectual pride. Stop seeing Bible knowledge as the objective. Our commission is clearly laid out in 2 Corinthians 5 and 6, and it takes supernatural input. Ambassadors of reconciliation. Different from this world.

The KIng has seats close to His throne and available for those who are broken, hungry, expectant and humble. His life will be actualized in them and in their yielding. Other lives will be changed as a consequence, and other dark places lightened.

Not simply another lesson.


painting by James Tissot